It’s the time of the year when everyone is crowning the Song the Summer. Billboard has picked Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines as their choice based upon radio airplay, audience impressions, sales data and streaming activity, but that’s not the final word. Other’s have chimed in with their own picks. MTV Video Music Awards Best Song of the Summer, based on online voting went to One Direction’s Best Song Ever, while Paste Magazine’s editors picked Daft Punk’s Get Lucky.
But do any of these songs really deserve the Song of the Summer crown? I really don’t like a metric like Billboard’s that uses radio airplay or sales data – that’s really a measure of how well a label’s marketing department is performing, not a measure of how well the song is liked. Online voting, such as is used to select the MTV Video Music Award winner, is easily hacked, manipulated and subject to the Tyranny of the Bored, while an editorial pick is just the opinion of a couple of writers on a deadline.
I think the best way to pick the Song of the Summer is see which song is actually played more by music listeners. Forget the song that is getting the most buzz, the Song of the Summer is the song that is getting the most plays. So, let’s look at song plays and pick our own Song of the Summer.
The following chart shows a plot of the top 750 songs played over the summer. The plot represents the song plays vs the song fans. Songs on the upper right are the songs that have the most fans and are getting the most plays
You can click on the above image to open an interactive version of the chart. You can mouse over the songs to see what they are, you can click on a song to hear it, and you can click on a genre in the legend to highlight songs within a particular genre.
Using this chart we can see that the top songs of the summer based on play data are:
- Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
- Radioactive – Imagine Dragons
- Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke
- When I Was Your Man – Bruno Mars
- Thrift Shop – Mackmore & Ryan Lewis
- Holy Grail – Jay Z
- Just Give Me A Reason – P!nk
- Treasure – Bruno Mars
- Mirrors – Justin Timberlake
- We Can’t Stop – Miley Cyrus
Daft Punk’s Get Lucky is at #13, and One Direction’s rank is way down at #74.
Blurred Lines is close at number three, but the clear winner of the Song of the Summer crown, based on play data is Macklemore’s Can’t Hold Us.
The songs with the most passionate fans
I like plotting songs on a plays vs fans plot. It not only shows what songs are most popular in terms of plays and fans, but it also helps us find songs that are attracting the most passionate fans. For example, in the plot below, I’ve highlighted certain songs that are getting more than their fair share of songs plays:
These are songs that fans are listening to over and over – a good indicator that the song is destined for greatness. Avicii and Lorde are already on the Billboard top 10. The Fifth Harmony Song Miss Movin’ On has an extremely high passion score.
I expect we’ll be hearing a lot about Fifth Harmony over the next year.
Update - it turns out that the Fifth Harmony high passion score is not an honest score. The fans of Fifth Harmony (aka Harmonizers) have been organizing a continuous streaming of Fifth Harmony’s Miss Movin’ On to push it up the charts. Here’s a peek into the twitter campaign:
This campaign explains why the Fifth Harmony track is such an outlier, and is a reminder that any single metric used to pick winners can and will be manipulated. sigh.
Perhaps Blurred Lines is the Song of the Summer in that it best captured the vibe of 2013, but my vote, and the data say that the real song of the summer was Macklemore’s Can’t hold us. Now, since it is after labor day, we can put this topic to rest, and start thinking about how we feel about the Song of the Summer 2014 being by Fifth Harmony.